On November 3, 2012, the Southern California Mediation Association held its annual conference. I was asked to address two important points to mediators who are NOT attorneys as part of a Los Angeles County Superior Court approved program for non- attorneys who wish to be on its panel of mediators. The points are:
- The value of having a mediator who is not an attorney; and
- How to convince an attorney to hire a non-attorney mediator.
Being an attorney, I admit my bias in favor of hiring mediators who are attorneys. So, I spoke to one of my colleagues who is an excellent mediator and NOT an attorney. She referred me to an article entitled, “Should a Mediator Also Be An Attorney?” by Cris Currie posted on Mediate.com in August 2000 addressing this topic .(Currie) The author recites two studies, one conducted in 1989 and a follow-up in 1995, which showed that having ANY TYPE of degree does NOT insure competence as a neutral.
The article explains that people assume two things;
- That mediation is a natural extension of legal training and is a skill readily acquired by attorneys; and
- In legal disputes, i.e., litigated cases, legal experience is needed in order to resolve them.
The article then explains that both assumptions are wrong. Legal training does not insure competence as a mediator; in fact, no degree does. And “prior professional experience
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